Chikanobu, Carp Jumping under a Wisteria Tree at the Chiyoda Palace

Toyohara Chikanobu (1838 - 1912) Carp Jumping out of the Pond under a Wisteria Tree at the Chiyoda Palace (Chiyoda Ooku Ohanami), 1894. Oban triptych.

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This perfect and exquisite print, the delicate survivor of earthquake, fire and world war is a picture of longing… longing for a delicate and refined past by an artist obsessed with the pace of change, intrigued by the present and drawn to a disappearing history.

The Chiyoda Inner Palace (Chiyoda no Ooku) series of 1892-1896, together with his 1897 series Chiyoda Outer Palace (Chiyoda no on-omote), provided detailed depictions of life in and around Edo Castle before the Meiji Restoration of 1868.  In the Chiyoda Inner Palace set, Chikanobu documented various annual ceremonies in the women’s quarters, especially those at New Year’s, and seasonal activities, particularly those conducted in the palace gardens... 

The women depicted in the Inner Palace are portrayed as elegant ideal feminine figures, showing little emotion or excitement.  No one seems happy or sad, ebullient or upset.  In fact, these imaginary depictions suggest a realm of tranquil harmony, without conflict or illness.  Only two old women are shown, and most of the more than 150 featured figures are youthful looking, appearing to be in their 20’s or early 30’s.  A few girls are present, but even they are well behaved; no babies or pregnant women are evident.  There is a sense of tension among the women, though, as ritual gestures and prescribed ceremonies are carried out with great seriousness.  Although some settings are animated by secondary figures (servants, actors, parade participants, etc.) or pet animals, overall the quiet rhythm of life in the Chiyoda Inner Palace is predominant and well described. (Lavenberg Collection)

The Palace itself is the Chiyoda Palace or Edo Castle as it was known.  It was built in 1457 by the warrior Edo Shigetsugu  in what is now the Honmaru and Ninomaru part of the Castle. It later became the seat of the old Tokugawa shogunate who rebuilt it in 1593 and completed it in 1636, but after centuries of power and total domestic and military dominance, the old regime, weakened and no longer relevant, were required to vacate the old Edo Castle in the revolution of 1868. Like so much of Japan’s past, the bulk of the medieval castle was pulled down. Chikanobu shows an idealised scene of palace maids wandering under flowering wisteria, carp leaping out of the water.

These prints of the Chiyoda precincts are very beautiful and quite collectible. They only really shine if like this, they are in outstanding condition. The print is backed with album paper, colour, condition and impression are all fine.

Published by Fukuda Kumajiro.

73cm x 37cm.